There’s No Excuse for All-Male Panels. Here’s How to Fix Them.

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Photo: Society for Human Resource Management
Media Outlet: Slate

Brigid Schulte wrote for the Better Life Lab Blog on Slate on how to diversify all-male panels.

In the public arena, there is never a shortage of white men who are asked to step into the spotlight and give expert opinions. The world is filled with all-male panels at mostly male conferences, featuring male keynote speakers and discussions dominated by men—including one at Oxford—that didn’t include a single woman—on “Being a Human Being.” One academic study of prestigious TED talks found that male speakers outnumber females by a ratio of 3 to 1. That’s about the same ratio of male-to-female political analysts on top cable news shows talking about the 2016 presidential campaign, which had the first female major party candidate.

Men are even asked to take starring roles in conversations about women. PayPal hosted an all-male panel—a “manel”—on gender equality. A manel has held forth on the topic of #WhenWomenThrive at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. And in June, an all-male panel at the PRWeek Hall of Femme Conference told female attendees they’d do better in the “macho” PR culture if they would only "speak up more loudly."

Is it any wonder that we continue to be surprised to learn that women served important roles as code breakers in World War II, or that black women mathematicians were the “hidden figures” behind NASA’s first manned space missions? When women and people of color are invisible on the public stage, their stories are erased from history. Literally. (Men outnumber women 6-to-1 in popular high school history textbooks.) And now, a growing number of increasingly fed-up groups all over the world are using technology, social networks, public pressure, and old-fashioned organizing to change that.


Brigid Schulte is the director of the Better Life Lab at New America. Schulte is an award-winning journalist and author, who writes widely for publications including the Washington Post, Slate, Time,  the Guardian, and others. Her book on time pressure, gender roles and modern life, Overwhelmed, Work, Love and Play when No One has the Time, was a New York Times bestseller.